Vegetation controls on variably-saturated processes between surface water and groundwater and their impact on the state of connection

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Abstract

The vadose zone plays an important role in surface water-groundwater interaction and exerts strong influences on biogeochemical, ecological, and hyporheic processes. It is also the presence of an unsaturated zone that controls the state of connection between surface water and groundwater. Despite recent advances on how hydrogeological variables affect surface water-groundwater interactions, there is limited understanding of the hydroclimatic effects of precipitation and evapotranspiration. More specifically, there is a need for a physically based understanding on the changes that may occur in response to changes in vegetation. While it may seem qualitatively obvious that the presence of vegetation can cause an unsaturated zone to develop underneath a riverbed and alter the state of connection, it has so far not been demonstrated quantitatively. Also, the influence of variables such as root extinction depth, topography, and the influence of land clearance has so far not been explored. In this study, fully coupled, physically based 2-D transient homogeneous models were used to simulate the impact of land clearance and revegetation on the state of connection of a perennial river system. The simulations showed that the presence of vegetation can create an unsaturated zone between a river and an aquifer and affect the state of connection and that the removal of deep-rooted vegetation from a catchment may have a significant impact on the state of connection as well as the condition of the water resource.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberW11517
Number of pages14
JournalWater Resources Research
Volume47
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011

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